march of Wales

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Comparable to ‘mark’ (German) and ‘marche’ (French), signifying, from the 11th cent., the borderland between the English shires and unsubdued Welsh kingdoms. It arose from the Anglo‐Norman conquests from the 11th cent. onwards, and parts were a theatre of war until the late 13th. By 1300 the march enjoyed stability, politically and militarily, governmentally and socially. Its distinctive society embraced native and immigrant, Welsh, English, and French languages, and peculiar customs and laws. ‘Marcher lords’ enjoyed great authority to govern and exploit; the king's writ did not run and the common law did not normally operate there. There was no effective, supervisory authority, and the march acquired a reputation for independence and lawlessness. These matters were seriously addressed from Edward IV's reign by a Council of the March, developing from the councils of English princes of Wales. By the Act of Union (1536), the marcher lordships were absorbed in new or existing English or Welsh shires; but marcher lords survived and so did some of their rights over land and tenant.

Subjects: British History.

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